Dixon holds off Rahal to win Indianapolis GP on record-breaking day
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Iceman became the Ironman of IndyCar on Saturday. Capped it off with a win, too.
Scott Dixon kept his cool after getting spun around on the opening lap of the Indianapolis Grand Prix, used Graham Rahal’s late pit stop to take the lead and then held off the hard-charging pole winner for his first victory of the season by 0.4779 seconds.
Dixon’s 54th career win, second in series history, was part of another milestone day. He has won at least one race in 19 consecutive IndyCar seasons, extending his own record, and it came on the day he also broke Tony Kanaan’s previous series mark with his 319th consecutive start.
“Crazy day for me, I thought I had a fantastic start, picked up about five spots and then got to (turn) seven and there was a bit of a backup there and just got spun around,” said Dixon, who had his 200th podium finish. “So now I can say a spin and win and which is pretty cool.”
It’s another remarkable chapter in Dixon’s incredible career.
Only A.J. Foyt has won more races (67) or more series crowns (seven) than Dixon, who has done it all with Chip Ganassi Racing over 22 seasons — the longest-tenured driver in team history. And while the trips to victory lane rarely come easily for the six-time IndyCar champ, Dixon always seems to find a creative way to stay in contention.
It happened again Saturday after an early collision that sent Dixon to pit road on Lap 5. He spent the rest of the race running a different strategy than the other cars, a move that eventually helped him stay in contention after qualifying 15th.
“We’re going against the best ever, right? I mean it’s what 20 straight seasons or 19?” said Rahal, who ended a six-year pole drought Friday but failed to snap his six-year victory drought. “It’s ridiculous, it’s absolutely insane.”
Clearly, Rahal posed the biggest obstacle after he pitted with 23 laps to go, and Dixon took the lead. The 34-year-old Ohioan spent the rest of the race chasing Dixon, steadily cutting the gap. With 10 laps remaining, Rahal trailed by 2.9084 seconds. With five to go, it was down to 1.5078 and with two left, Rahal was within 0.2687 seconds. Then Rahal ran into trouble.
“On the second-to-last lap, I wasn’t gaining ground, I was just pulling dead even, and I couldn’t make the lunge,” he said.
That was the opening Dixon needed and he managed to prevent Rahal from ever getting a chance to pass. The victory moved Dixon ahead of two-time series champ Josef Newgarden into second place behind Alex Palou, who extended his lead to 101 points with a seventh-place finish.
“It's very hard to win so you're constantly changing, chasing a moving target, which is fun.” Dixon said. “I think that's what keeps you inspired, especially when you have a great team.”
Pato O’Ward, Christian Lundgaard, Rahal’s teammate, and 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi closed out the top five. O’Ward and Rossi both drive for Arrow McLaren.
BLISTER IN THE SUN
Rahal's qualifying runs may have proved costly Saturday, too. He said one of the tires from Friday developed a blister, leaving him a set short. That meant he went with the used red tires for his final run.
“I was worried a little last night because we didn't have three sets of red (tires) because we had a blister on the right front,” he said. “Not really sure why, there wasn't a flat spot or anything, but unfortunately that made it unusable today. So we couldn't use that set today, and I knew that meant the two middle stints on black, I was going to have to drive the wheels off.”
Newgarden failed to advance out of the first round of qualifying Friday and his struggles continued Saturday. IndyCar announced an unapproved engine change would cost Newgarden six starting spots, dropping him to 25th on the 27-car grid.
Then he got caught up in the same first-lap pileup that caused Dixon to spin. The result: Newgarden wound up 25th while losing even more ground to Palou, who started the day with an 84-point lead.
With three races left, Newgarden's deficit is 105 points.
O'Ward had his sixth podium finish of the season Saturday, but he's still looking for his first win and it's clear the close calls are starting to wear on O'Ward.
“There's nothing more I want than to get wins," he said. "Obviously, there's little things here and there that got us out of contention and out of being able to capitalize on that.”
Last week, an early crash ended Linus Lundqvist's IndyCar debut. On Saturday, he was one of 17 drivers to complete all 85 laps on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. He wound up 12th.
Lundqvist, the 2022 Indy Lights champ, has produced solid qualifying efforts in consecutive weeks and now has a top-15 finish to boot.
The IndyCar Series takes next week off before finishing the season with three consecutive weeks of racing. The final stretch begins Aug. 27 at World Wide Technology Raceway outside St. Louis.
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